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Salary Dispute Prompts Tense Moment For Quinn, Lawmaker At Bill Signing

CHICAGO (CBS) -- One of the state lawmakers whose paychecks are being withheld by Gov. Pat Quinn over the state's pension stalemate appeared to be about to upstage the governor at a bill signing yesterday.

WBBM Newsradio's Mike Krauser reports it seemed like it was going to be an embarrassing moment for the governor as he prepared to sign legislation giving the Illinois Department of Transportation authority over the proposed South Suburban Airport.

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) was at the podium, next to the governor, when he hinted at Quinn's veto blocking legislative salaries.

"You know, recently, the governor's made a decision – some decisions – that questioned my confidence in him," DeLuca said.

Quinn, Lawmakers At Odds Over Pension Reform

Though he didn't mention the veto, DeLuca clearly was alluding to the paycheck issue, and it seemed it was about to turn into an embarrassing situation for the governor, but DeLuca quickly broke the tension.

"Because he selected my birthday to sign the airport bill, he has regained my confidence completely," DeLuca said.

The governor went on to defend his decision to block lawmakers' salaries until they send him a pension reform plan to sign.

"It's crystal clear the governor has this authority," he said. "They're not going to get paid until they enact fundamental pension reform, and I'm not going to take a salary either."

The state is facing approximately $100 billion in unfunded employee pension liabilities, and lawmakers have failed to agree on how to address the issue.

After conducting a legal review of the governor's veto of legislative salaries, to determine if it's constitutional, Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said Thursday she would not issue any paychecks to any lawmakers, as long as the veto stands.

However, she called Quinn's veto a "serious precedent that is being created," and said the pension impasse was "no way to run government."

"Threats, blackmail and inertia may be good theater, but it makes us look ridiculous and takes away from our ability to get things done," she said. "It is time for leaders to lead."

Lawmakers, who receive an annual salary of $67,836 – with additional pay for leadership positions – would either have to vote to override Quinn's veto, or go to court to seek a court order restoring their pay if they want to continue getting paychecks.

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